After playing a season-low 5:32 against the Islanders and getting dropped to the fourth line against the Devils, Chris Stewart didn’t need to be told what it all meant.
“It’s obviously a message,” Stewart said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “So, the message has been delivered and it’s how you respond. I can’t worry about who I’m playing with or all that other stuff.
“I have to worry about what I can control, and that’s how I play. So I have to stick with it here and try to raise my level of play.”
In the first of his two-year, $8.3 million extension — signed on the strength of last year’s 36-points-in-48-games performance — Stewart has been maddeningly inconsistent this season. On the surface, his 15 goals and 25 points through 52 games might seem OK, but eight of those goals came in a six-game span, and he has just two in his last 17 contests.
Saturday’s game on Long Island was one of his worst this season. Stewart was essentially parked, getting just three shifts in each period while sitting the final 11 minutes, and finished minus-2. The next game out, against the Devils, he was demoted to the fourth line alongside Maxim Lapierre and Brenden Morrow.
Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock isn’t one to single out players, but appeared to be referencing Stewart when he said the Blues had “too many passengers” during a recent slump. Hitchcock also added that Stewart needs to play a more direct-line game.
“I need him to stay north, not go east and west,” Hitchcock said. “Sometimes when you have skill people and they’re not getting opportunities, they try to force offense and it ends up being worse.
“So just stay on the north concept and everything will work out fine.”
Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.
Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.
“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.
The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.
Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.
There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.
The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.
That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.
In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.
Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.